Mental Healthcare Changes

By: Shane Symolon Email
By: Shane Symolon Email

Almost a year after the incident at Virginia Tech, changes may be coming to the Virginia mental health system to help prevent troubled people from slipping through cracks.

A bill has passed the General Assembly that is meant to fill some of those gaps. Community Service Boards say it’s a step in the right direction.

Valley Community Services Board Director Jerry Thomas says that's a good thing. Before this bill, someone had to be determined an imminent danger before he or she was hospitalized.

"A couple months ago, we had a individual we knew was decompensating, but we had to wait until the point where he would fairly rapidly decline and law enforcement had to be called before we could actually get him care," says Thomas.

The new wording would require someone to have substantial likelihood to hurt themselves or others. Case Manager Marlys Craun says it would allow for the client's medical history to be looked at when getting a court order.

"We hope this will enable us to intervene with people much more quickly so they have a job and a home in the community to go back to," says Craun.

They say the bill also helps shore up communication problems between agencies to allow follow through with help for a patient after a problem is identified.

"It sets the standard for outpatient treatment. Who does what when. It sets up those roles and responsibilities," says Craun.

Community Services Boards says money needs to be approved by the state to hire more case workers.


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